Saturday, March 29, 2014
Into the Code (THECODE.WAD)
The last time I dealt with a computer virus related to Doom, I wound up in a mandrill's ass. Thankfully, Obsidian's Into the Code, a minisode for Doom II released in 2014, is far more reasonable. It's also fairly modest, fielding six levels with none of them clocking in over one hundred monsters. The plot feels right out of '94 / '95; there's a virus on your computer, and it's hiding in your favorite game (right?). You could just delete it, but in the interest of having fun, you boot up the ol' .EXE and get to clearing them out. I guess the logic of the code dictates that the virus oppose the player with the few tools at its disposal.
With a virus at play, I was expecting something a little more off-the-wall than what we ultimately ended up with... Not that there's anything wrong with that. Obsidian works the weirdness in "Malfunction" and (especially) "Proxy", but I was thinking cyberspace a la "Shaman's Device" instead of hardware a la The CPU. The design is very clean and at times quite imaginative; my only real criticism is that the dark gray and occasional blue rarely feel as vibrant as Doom can look, and I say that realizing how much players despair over an eternity of brown and gray. Those breaks in more classic Doom areas are very refreshing, particularly the red inferno featured in "Malfunction" with its brick megastructure and dark dungeon.
Combat is fairly demanding after "Startup". Obsidian strikes an ammo balance that's shy of Malcolm Sailor's overtuned CHORD series while still leaving little room for errors. "Proxy" is very unusual in its emphasis on the berserk fist, which you'll use to take down several monsters you might not ordinarily target with it. The author shows that he's not afraid of putting the player between a rock and a hard place and the resulting fights help to distract from the fairly monochromatic settings. It can also be, heh, very trappy, so watch out for falling ceilings, and if you find something you don't think you can get past, you should probably double back and look for a tool to help you out.
While the hallway-centric architecture and gray paint job wore on me a bit, Into the Code is still a very fun little mapset with a few unusual design concepts and a lot of mapping tricks that made me feel like it was for a more advanced source port than it really was, like those mysteriously appearing weapons and ammo. If you're up for a quick play and don't mind abdicating a little more control to the author than usual, it's definitely worth your time.
INTO THE CODE